| BEIJING, June 22
BEIJING, June 22 Chinese Internet users are
calling on fellow web surfers to stay offline on July 1, the
debut of a controversial software filter that critics say the
Chinese government is using to tighten censorship.
New regulations from Beijing mandate "Green Dam," a program
sold by Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co., be
pre-installed on personal computers manufactured or shipped
after July 1. China says the filter is designed to block
But many web users and activists both inside and outside
China fear a campaign against "unhealthy" sites is a pretext
for a wider crackdown on groups and websites that the
government fears or disapproves of.
The U.S. embassay said it viewed with concern any attempt
to restrict the free flow of information, and was worried about
both the potential impact on trade of the software and the
serious technical issues raised by the use of Green Dam.
Outspoken Beijing artist Ai Weiwei, who helped design the
landmark Olympic Bird's Nest stadium but has become an
increasingly vocal critic of the government, called on web
users to boycott use of the Internet on the day of Green Dam's
In a post on Twitter (www.twitter.com), Ai called for the
low key protests to mark a day that is also the anniversary of
the founding of China's Communist Party.
"Stop any online activities, including working, reading,
chatting, blogging, gaming and mailing," Ai wrote in the
Chinese-language post. "Don't explain your behaviour."
Ai told Reuters he hoped the boycott would gather support
because it offered an easy way to make a stand in a country
where vocal opposition to government policy can be risky.
"It's an online protest without any cost or risk," Ai told
Reuters in an email. "It aims to oppose Internet censorship."
"I haven't counted the number of supporters, but there are
many of them," he added.
His message has already been picked up and passed on by
other Internet users backing the call for a day offline.
The introduction of Green Dam has raised concerns from
industry as well as rights groups, ranging from worries about
compatibility, intellectual property rights and support for the
software to cyber-security and Internet freedoms.
Initial criticism of the software in Chinese media has been
muted in recent days, but the editor of the influential Caijing
business magazine on Monday published a commentary slamming
Green Dam as lacking validity and moral authority.
"In order to prevent the transmission on the Internet of
violence, and of vulgar information that harms young people ...
there must be some form of public authority backing up social
rights," Hu Shuli wrote.
"But the help should be a kind of service, must not be
coercive, and should have the acceptance of society. Otherwise
... it will certainly be thwarted," she said.
One web survey published in the Beijing Times showed most
respondents thought the software violated privacy and were not
willing to pay for it once a free one-year subscription
The rollout of Green Dam has come on the heels of a wider,
long-running campaign to "clean up" the Internet.
The government last week condemned the Chinese-language
version of Google (GOOG.O) and several domestic sites,
including high profile Mop and Tencent, for "disseminating
pornographic and vulgar information" and asked them to remove
some content. [ID:nPEK78941]
Analysts say the Communist Party is fighting to stifle
dissent in a year of sensitive anniversaries, including the
20th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy
(Editing by Ken Wills and Dean Yates)